A guest post from Andrea Winn, our Curator of Community Exhibitions
Back in March a group from the Museum took a trip to Newcastle to meet with colleagues at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. The team were really generous with their time and told us all about their projects, audiences and the challenges of working with a partially open building. A few of us took the opportunity to stay the night so we could visit some other venues the following day.
On day two I visited The Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art on the south bank of the river Tyne in Gateshead. It’s an impressive building with a great view along the river looking into Newcastle. During my visit I was really impressed with the Baltic’s approach to donations. As part of the Courtyard Project we are looking at different donation models and it was really useful to see how other organisations approach enhanced donations without making their visitors feel uncomfortable, whilst sharing why donations are so important.
As you enter the Baltic building you are welcomed by a member of staff or volunteer who gives you a map and is happy to answer any questions. There are no notices about donations in the entrance, so you don’t feel pressured into anything as you walk through the door. I decided to start at the top of the building, where I came across their fifth floor viewing area – a great place to enjoy looking out over the city.
The viewing area is really well designed; the space between the full-length windows is used to inform visitors about both the natural environment and the Baltic’s own work. It was a lovely balance of fun facts alongside information about how the Centre funds some of their free activities.
The panels were visual and informative, giving the visitor a taste of what goes on within the building, but also included details about how they fund their activities. They also make really good references to the city in order to illustrate how many people engage with the Baltic’s programmes and events.
The wall of facts then leads to a wall where there are various opportunities to donate, covering all methods from contactless and online payments to texting, as well as the more traditional method of putting money in an envelope and posting it in a box. Throughout the space, you are also reassured that all donations go directly to the Baltic.
What impressed me about the Baltic’s approach is how they provide the visitor with the right balance of information about the organisation and the work that they are able to carry out as a result of donations, alongside a range of different ways of donating. This is really easy to use and leaves anyone who donates with a sense of how their donation has contributed to the work that is carried out. This is a great model that works really well.